Q&A With Development Consultant Margaret Sentamu

Margaret Sentamu is a Diversity & Leadership Development consultant who has worked for a number of years in the private, public and third sector. Margaret was born in Uganda and came to England in the 1970s. She is married to the 97th Archbishop of York. 

Five Talents is very fortunate to have her on our Council of Reference, and she kindly took some time out of her schedule to talk about the current state of international development and the importance of work 'with' the African people rather than for them.

You grew up in Uganda under Idi Amin, and have been involved in the charity sector for a number of years, what are your thoughts on the shift from pure aid to a more development focused third sector?

Forty years ago, not many people will have heard of enterprise or sustainable development.  The poor in the developing world would have instinctively looked to their governments and through them to foreign donors to help fund their needs.  But today, people are looking to be given a hand up and not a hand out to help them become self-supporting and self-sustaining.

Experience shows that if you eliminate the third party/middle man the monies go directly to those who will put it to good use instead of lining the pockets of government officials.  And the benefits are visible and can be measured and assessed at first hand.


In a talk at Greenbelt in 2011 you highlight something that struck a chord with us at the Five Talents office: the importance of ’working with the African people, rather than for them’. In your experience, how is this best achieved?

When you work with someone rather than for someone you reduce the inequality and dependency culture and relationship.  It is a more adult relationship based on mutual trust. You are not there to do good for them.  It also ensures that the needs of the individual you are helping are paramount rather than the needs of the donor. 


In the same talk you also discuss ’working with existing structures’. Each of the Five Talents programmes pairs with structures like the Anglican Church to make use of their resources and relationships with the community. Why do you think this is important, and what lessons could the UK’s charities learn?

My experience is that when you do things together or partner with someone else you are likely to achieve more than when you go it alone.  This is especially true in all aspects of life including the charity sector.  You do well to identify your allies who will support you and by working with existing structures it helps to avoid re-inventing the wheel.  There is an African Proverb which says that “It’s the teeth that are together that are to bite the meat”. 

Because Five Talents emerged out of the 1998 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops and Archbishops round the world, it makes sense for it to exploit those relationships to help it achieve its ends.  The Anglican Communion is an already established body with extensive networks and proven credibility for setting up and running not-for-profit structures such as hospitals and schools. 

The Anglican Church is still highly regarded in the Global South and so those relationships ought to be maximised in the new ventures of microfinance.  And in the UK charities should not be afraid of working with the churches out of fear of proselytization.  Many churches are very aware of the need to connect faith with social action.  It is a missionary imperative.


It is easy to see parallels between Five Talents and Traidcraft - where you are a non-executive director - given that the latter aims to ‘develop skills and build sustainable livelihoods through trade.’ Can you tell us about your thoughts on this kind of development in Uganda and East Africa in general? 

The basic needs of human beingsthe world over are not just food, water, clothing and shelter but also sanitation, education and healthcare .  These are the things we all long for and most charities I know, including Traidcraft and Five Talents are in the business of helping men and women in the developing world to have these basic needs but more than that, for them to flourish as human being; to develop their God-given gifts and talents and put them to good use for the good of their communities.  The best gift one can give to such a person is the opportunity to develop their skills to enable them to lead sustainable lives.


Looking back over your career, it is clear to see your focus on helping people, and particularly women, achieve their potential. One of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is to ‘achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’ by 2030. Do you see this is realistic? In east Africa, what will need to change to see this happen? Can NGOs help facilitate this, or does the change need to come from within?

The 17 UN Millennium Development Global development goals have recently been whittled down to three – to end extreme poverty; fight inequality and injustice and to fix climate change.  These goals include gender inequality and the empowerment of women and girls, a subject that is close to my own heart. 

I believe this goal unlocks everything, including the other goals because “if you educate a boy or man you are educating the individual but if you educate a girl you educating the whole family, village and community”.

Empowering women and girls through education or small loans, such as those given by Five Talents gives these women the opportunity and freedom to make choices; feel more secure about their future, and with that comes a sense of hope about themselves and the future of their families.  So may I encourage you all to be give generously and if possible to live simply in order that others may simply live.